Time for the first annual World Ag Expo review by the Porterville Nerd.
This part will focus on general impressions,. here are my specific impressions.
In our preview, I expressed concern about the weather. On Tuesday, the only of the 3 days I went, the weather turned out to be spectacular. In the morning it was crisp and clear, and warmed well into the 50s during the later hours. Not only that, but the grounds were dry. I was concerned about mud from the previous weekend’s soakers, and went prepared for a slog. Instead, the grounds were dry as a desert. In only a very few spots on the outdoor paths was there even a patch of mud, and even there is was shallow and easily walked around. I don’t know how the ground crew did it, but they did, and they deserve a huge tip of the hat for their remarkable efforts.
It seemed to me that the crowds were down, at least on the first day, compared to last year. That is to me expected due to the overall economy. Parking was easy enough, and there was no real need to take a shuttle from the Tulare County fairgrounds a few miles away. Was there even a shuttle offered? I parked near where the shuttles dropped me off last year, and I didn’t notice any activity in that area. I could have just been looking at in-between times, but even inside the showgrounds at the drop-off point, there were fewer exhibitors then last year.
I also noticed that the international contingent was smaller. There seemed to be less activity at the international meeting room then last year, although perhaps that was because it was early in the show and visitors were out on the show floor before getting down to “horse trading”.
The balcony of the International area provides a nice 2nd story view of the showgrounds, but the walk up the steps is an imposing one. I’d like to see the approach made much more friendly, and an effort made to encourage the vendors themselves to send someone to the Center for an hour or so during the show just to mingle. Although there was plenty of hospitality there, with interpreters available in apparently dozens of languages, and fresh local fruits provided by the UC Lindcove Research farm, it did feel sort of isolated and isolating to me.
I have spent a good part of my career working in international product marketing, so I can say that such places, when not centrally located and with access in effect limited people whose only ting they have in common is that they are not American, is hardly enabling anyone to mingle and optimize their visit to the show. Definitely been there and done that as an exhibitor and as a show attendee.
Last year, precision ag seemed to be the “big thing”, including several large displays near the shuttle drop off point that were just empty space this year. There didn’t seem to be an overriding theme to this years’s show, although in the pavilions, there were clusters of related exhibitors. There was an “organic” section, there was an “irrigation” section for instance. Neither was promoted as such in the actual area, at least not the way the Dairy Pavilion is promoted. Only if you noticed while wandering the rows would you be aware of the clusters.
I noticed some of what was missing from last year. Finance companies. Last year there were many banks, credit unions, and other financial organizations offering services and products of many stripes. Loans agianst land, retirement planning, maybe a way to pay for the giant tractors and other large tools parked outside. This year, perhaps no surprise in the current economy, they were largely absent.
It also seemed to me that there were fewer trade print media exhibiting, although I did see some of the ones I thought might be missing from last year on a second go-round. But their overall presence and eagerness to engage the passerby with anything other then a stack of magazines or papers on a table seemed down. Perhaps this reflects the overall state of the economy, and of print media in general. I would think that in today’s times, as long as they were already there, trade print media would be doing all they could to boost their controlled circulation in order to justify ad rates in a tightening market.
While there were some categories of vendors that were absent this year compared to last, for the most part the booths, both inside and out, were mostly filled with vendors. I would guess that well over 90% of the space was sold, with close to 100% last year.